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What's In a Name?
Video 4 of 8
So here's our basic five senses, we've got taste, we've got hearing, we've got smell, we have touch, we have sight. If you go through the text do you see any of these senses kind of overrepresented in the story? Okay so out of all these senses, it's basically hearing and sight. Very, very overrepresented in our story. Let's color code that a little bit and see where hearing things and seeing things emerges in our story.
So here's our first example. Vayomer ish el achiv aval asheimim anachnu al achinu asher ra'inu tzarat nafsho - so the brothers say among themselves we are guilty for having seen - there it is our first example of seeing. Having seen the pain of our brother as he was calling out to us. V'loh shamanu - but we did not listen, we did not hear. Of course it means that we did of course hear what he was saying, but; V'loh shamanu - we didn't listen. Even in English by the way the word hear and listen can have two meanings. It can mean to actually physically hear what it is that someone is saying, but then there's also, do you hear me, do you understand me, do you accept what it is that I'm saying, do you get it, do you listen? So we heard but we didn't really hear. We saw what he was going through but we didn't hear, it didn't penetrate into us, so to speak.
Then keep on reading. Then Reuven says; Haloh amarti aleichem leimor al techtu bayeled v'loh shamatem - I told you not to do this but you didn't hear. So there's our second hearing. Now a third one; Heim lo yadu ki shomei'ah Yosef - ah, they didn't realize that Yosef was listening.
So if we put together this little train, we see something kind of interesting. The brothers say among themselves, we saw but we didn't hear. His cries were coming up to us but we ignored it. V'loh shamatem - Reuven says, you didn't listen. So what's interesting here is that if you look at the episode in the pit, in the episode in the pit Yosef was calling out, but the brothers didn't listen. Now look what's happening, the inverse is happening here. Heim lo yadu - what they didn't realize is somebody was listening; Shomei'ah Yosef - Yosef was listening. Oh interesting. The brother who was calling out before when the brothers weren't listening, now the brothers are talking and somebody is listening, it's that brother.
By the way, remember the double meaning of listening. The word to listen in both Hebrew and English can mean either (a) to hear physically, or (b) to understand and respond. Well if we think back to the pit, when the brothers say we didn't listen, what does that mean? It means well we heard physically what was going on, but we didn't understand and respond, and that's why we're guilty.
Well now, irony of ironies, if we come down to what's actually happening over here, there's a real kind of poetic justice that the Torah is kind of putting out there, because now let's think about listening in terms of what Yosef is doing to their conversation. They didn't realize that Yosef was listening, but what does listening mean? Well of course they realized that Yosef physically heard them, but they thought that this Egyptian man would have no idea as to what they're saying, would not be able to understand and respond to what they're saying. But there of course they were wrong. Yosef does understand and respond. Heim lo yadu ki Yosef shomei'ah - they didn't realize that Yosef was really listening. Not just hearing physically but truly listening.
What happens at this point? Vayikach mei'itam et Shimon. Oh isn't that interesting? Shomei'ah - Shin, Mem, Ayin. Shimon - Shin, Mem, Ayin. It's like Yosef took the listening one, the one who was listening and not responding. Then of course Yosef imprisons him right before their eyes. There, eyes at the beginning, eyes at the end. You see with your eyes. You see with your eyes. Seeing and hearing.
This of course gets into the meaning of the names, a deeper level of wordplay in the names. We begin to see it here with Shimon, but there is more here than meets the eye (and not just the ear). Let's come back and talk about the names and their deeper meanings and how that sheds light on these eight verses.
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